ITOL Top 50 Films of the Decade, Entry 36: A Silent Voice

Year: 2016

Runtime: 130 Minutes

Director: Naoko Yamada

Writers: Reiko Yoshida (screenplay), Yoshitoki Oima (manga), Kiyoshi Shigematsu (original author)

Stars: Miyu Irino, Saoria Hayami, Kensho Ono

Seeing that Naoko Yamada’s “A Silent Voice” made our list for the Top 50 Films of the Decade was an absolute treat. Not only because it’s always nice to have some anime appreciation, but it’s also great because the film isn’t talked about as much as it should. Yamada’s adaptation of Yoshitoki Oima’s manga of the same name is easily one of my favorite anime films as it pulls no punches in delivering a timeless story about redemption, understanding others, and finding your voice.

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“A Silent Voice” depicts bullying and its effects on all of those involved in a way that most other films wouldn’t and holds nothing back in showing the deep cuts it creates in its two main characters: Shoya (Miyu Matsuoka/Robbie Daymond) and Shoko (Saori Hayami/Lexi Cowden). After Shoko, a young deaf girl transfers into Shoya’s class, she is relentlessly bullied by him and a few other classmates for her disability to the point where she’s forced to transfer schools. Once Shoko leaves, Shoya goes from being the bully to bullied as he’s harassed by his classmates and former friends and ends up being alone and depressed as he enters high school. Searching for forgiveness from Shoko and looking for personal redemption, Shoya and Shoko goes through life-changing events together that have them face their personal demons.

What She Said:

“Viewing the heightened emotion and drama of adolescence with an unjudgemental eye, it’s a reminder that schooldays are always the best.”

Emma Johnston, Total Film

Nothing about “A Silent Voice” is cut and dry and its complexities are what makes it so strong. It doesn’t treat Shoya’s path to redemption with any benefit of the doubt and his acts as a child are never treated as a “boys will be boys” situation. Instead, there’s a deep sense of maturity that’s directed at Shoya’s bullying and he’s reprimanded in a way that feels real. Even the way he questioned by others about him simply wanting to find forgiveness from Shoko to make himself feel better is incredibly just and, yet, you still deeply care for him. Shoya’s story is a perfect example of the bullying cycle as he essentially becomes the new target after Shoko leaves and is completely ostracized by his classmates. Even for all the things that make you dislike him as a kid, as an adult, you feel bad that he’s so lonely and depressed to the point where he’d commit suicide.

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It’s almost as if Shoya is walking on eggshells through the entire experience and he’s just trying to find solid footing – which is what he slowly finds through Shoko and other friends. There’s something incredibly heart-warming about seeing Shoya make more friends and find strength in himself. His friendship with a fellow outcast, Tomohiro (Kensho Ono/Graham Halstead), is an absolute blast and Tomohiro is the kind of admirable and accepting friend you’d want to have. From there, every time Shoya gains a new friend or finds more solace within himself, it’s almost as if you’re growing with him. Every time he makes a mistake, accidently hurts someone’s feelings, or beats himself up over something, it feels incredibly personal.

What She Said:

“An emotionally detailed portrait of coming-of-age and the high school politics that go along with it, not to mention a universally relatable one.”

Sarah Ward, ArtsHub

The same can even be said about Shoko as you really grow to care about her, and she goes through her own kind of growth with her relationships with her family and Shoya. Because of her deafness, Shoko always believes that she is a burden on those around her and is caring to a fault because of it.  When things with her family aren’t going right, she believes it’s because of her and she even feels that she is to blame for Shoya being ostracized after she left. Her story is equally as compelling and even more touching at times because of how genuine it is. As a viewer, all of her frustrations of being unable to completely be understood hit hard and it makes her friendship with Shoya meaningful.

Together, Shoya and Shoka go through highs and lows that really hit viewers and that don’t hide or nullify the pain they’re going through. As fulfilling and endearing as their journey is, it’s just as heartbreaking and horrifying. It’s the kind of film that’s hard to hold back tears when seeing and leaves a permanent lump in your throat. When I saw it in theaters, I remember the constant gasps and sniffles that leave the theater as well as the smiles that stayed on people’s faces, including mine, as the film ended.

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Even for all the heartbreak and tough moments, Shoya’s journey towards feeling forgiveness is incredibly satisfying and leaves its mark through all of the excellent animation and voice acting that stem from Yamada’s direction. The imagery of the “x’s” that Shoya puts on everyone’s faces since he doesn’t have the courage to look anyone in the eye is very powerful and makes it more meaningful when its all wiped away when Shoya finds his voice again. Even seeing the sign language is awesome and is something that most films don’t show or acknowledge much. Even the voice acting in both the subbed and dubbed versions are great and the characters are much stronger because of the tender love and care Yamada clearly has for the material.

What She Said:

“It’s a really ambitious interesting film.”

Rachel Wagner, Rachel Reviews

Twitter: @rachel_reviews

If there’s any film out there that needs to be talked about more, it’s “A Silent Voice”. It’s tragic, deep, and is the kind of film that’s chock full of rich emotion that viewers can feel. It’s easily one of the best animated films of the last decade, possibly ever, and has the raw power to change a viewer’s hearts just as its breaking it.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The Extra Bits:

Where to watch:

Netflix: Stream

Amazon: Rent & Buy

iTunes: Rent & Buy

YouTube: Rent & Buy

Who to follow:

http://www.kyotoanimation.co.jp/en/

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